Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Igniting a Passion:My Grandfather's Journey: Achieving His Dream of Flight: Part 3

Ed: “After the cancellation of the Army Air Corps training program for the war I was asked to help train female pilots for another government program called the WASP program in Sweetwater, Texas. WASP stood for Women Auxiliary Service Pilot. There were a total of 1,800 women that had been trained as pilots through that program. I trained three young ladies during that time. The training time also afforded me the opportunity to receive my Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) instrument rating. The holder of a CAA can fly airplanes, helicopters, and airships. The WASP program paid for me to get that certification, which in my mind was another link to getting were I needed to go.”
It was late in 1944. Ed accomplished a great deal at a young age. By 24 years old, he captured his dream of becoming a pilot and trained hundreds of men to fly for the war. But, were would his dream go now? Newly married to a beautiful young lady named Lois May Thurman from Joplin, Missouri, he decided that the best thing would be to move back home to Missouri and get a job. He did not see how he could fly anymore now that the war was ending. But, then came a surprise visitor to the base were Ed was training the female pilots. A captain from Eastern Airlines arrived looking to recruit airline pilots, and one paid a call to Ed’s training facility.
Ed: “The Captain from Eastern Airlines came to check out and recruit airline instructors for their commercial airline. I never spoke with him. I didn’t really think there was much point to it at the time. I figured my color vision problems would not allow me to fly with the airline, and honestly I wasn’t sure that I would like to fly commercially, just flying from one place straight to another. I guess it seemed kind of boring. I liked acrobatics and stunt flying, which was daring and had a bit more adventure to it. But, when I went home to tell Lois about it, she could not understand why I wouldn’t speak with the airline captain. After all, I was out of a job, and now we were expecting our first child. Still, I felt it best to head back to Missouri, but just as we were talking I got an unexpected call. As a picked up the phone and listened, I soon realized that this call might change the course of my career forever. His name was Dr. Andrews. He asked, “Mr. Wyrick, have you thought of flying for Eastern Airlines?” I told him that I would be interested but that I had issues passing tests because of my color blindness. He retorted, ‘Well, you just come on to my office tomorrow, and I will check you out.’ So, that is what I did.”
The following day I went to his office, and he administered the “yarn” vision test, which was not as difficult to pass as the military tests. Dr. Andrews looked me squarely in the face stating, “Mr. Wyrick, you are fine, and besides you have many hours of flight time. I’m going to pass you.”
Elated at the prospect of flying now, Ed went home to tell his wife Lois. Overjoyed she packed his bags to help him get ready for his next set of interviews in Miami, Florida.
Ed: “I packed up and headed down to Eastern’s hub in Miami, Florida. For two days, I went through extensive interviews. Then, I had to pack up again and go home. I didn’t know whether or not I got the job. Then on Monday, November 27th 1944, I got the call. I got the job. Within a month, I was co-piloting a DC-3 airplane. I could not believe that my love, my dream of flying was a reality."
Ed led a phenomenal career with Eastern Airlines beginning that Monday in November of 1944 until his last flight on October 26, 1980 at the age of 60 years.
Ed: “Flight 86. I will never forget. I charged an L-1011 over the blue ocean waters from San Juan, Puerto Rico en route to Atlanta, Georgia, now also my home. The Rolls Royce engines thrust us forward, and I realized at that moment-I would never experience this moment again. I enjoyed the flight thinking back on my career and back to the beginning as a little farm boy when a stranger gave me the opportunity of a lifetime, to know and experience flight."
"I remember that last flight as I pulled into the Atlanta terminal and was met by two fire trucks. The firemen offered a farewell salute, and made an arc of water over the airplane with their fire hoses. Once I walked out of the terminal and into the arrival gate, I was greeted by family, friends, and coworkers. The retirement speeches were given and I was awarded for my services. I decided after the awards and speeches it was time to show my family that I was ready to embark on my next dream. Flying had been my passion and my dream for many years, but at the age of sixty it was time to embark on another dream that had haunted me for years. I leaned over in front of the crowd surrounding me, and opened my briefcase. I reached up for my airline hat, and removed it with my right hand, but with my left hand I placed on my head an old western Stetson. To me this symbolized a new dream, a dream to farm. You see my life at this time had come full circle. I grew up on a farm, and loved planting, harvesting, the animals, and nature. Those experiences as a young boy on my grandparents’ farm never left me. With a lot of luck I was able to pursue my dreams of becoming a pilot, and I succeeded in achieving that dream, but we always have to be on the lookout for what’s ahead. For me, it was owning my own farm. It is now 33 years since my retirement. I have spent those years dedicated to my farm, my wife, and my family. I am a lucky man.”
Sitting with my grandfather, listening, and writing his story has given me a deeper appreciation for who he is and how he accomplished his dreams. Always quiet and humble, he pursued his dreams without fail. Yes, he admits to being lucky, but he knew his dreams and he was passionate about them. When he met my grandmother, he fell for her instantly. Although he was dating another young lady at the time, he quickly averted his attention to my grandmother and proposed to her on their second date. He could hardly wait the allotted 5 minutes he gave her to make up her mind! Luckily, she said, “yes”. They were married for an amazing 68 years with four children, 11 grandchildren, and 7 great grandchildren to show for their union.
My grandfather knew what he wanted and once he landed on his passions he never let them go. My hope is that others learn from his example, find their passions, and dedicate their lives to them knowing that by holding fast they will make a positive difference for themselves and those closest to them.

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
~Langston Hughes


Lois Thurman Wyrick
Wife of Edwin L. Wyrick for 68 years
Passed in 2012

                                                               Ed headed outbound on a trip.
                                                             Ed in Eastern airlines uniform.
                                                                      Getting ready for take off.

Awaiting the arrival of Ed's last flight. (1980)
Awards for service.
Beginning of a new dream.
                                                                          On the farm.

Another dream lived--a strong and lasting marriage.

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